True & False
This passage is about true and false wisdom. True wisdom comes from God, false wisdom comes from humans. True wisdom says there is a God; the God of the Bible is the one true God. False wisdom says there is no god. True wisdom says God is good and is the source of everything, visible and invisible. False wisdom says there’s no such thing as good or evil, everything we see happened by random chance.
The kind of wisdom you have, shows up in how you live. Just as faith without deeds is dead, you can’t claim to have true wisdom, but then practise false wisdom.
But before we get into that, we need to highlight something about God. First, God is for himself. God is for God. Second, God designed his world to work a certain way; we can choose to live in that way, or rebel against it.
Expect trials; rejoice in them, because God is good. Trials happen. Not, they might happen, they happen. If you’re not in a trial right now, you will be, for sure. Many of you are in trials right now.
An example of a trial is a difficult marriage, being sick, the death of a loved one, a child who is going astray. That’s why James says we will face trials of many kinds. There are many trials. Trials, if they are not happening right now for you, are building, coming, like an approaching storm. It isn’t just one trial; it is days of trials, many trials.
How is God for God? Consider , “The Lord is my shepherd, I want for nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness.” Now, so far, it sounds like this is all about me. And that resonates, right? Don’t we want everything to be about me?
When you get home from work, you want your spouse to ask you, “How was your day?” You want to be able to sit down, do nothing, watch TV. You’d love it if your spouse went up to you as soon as you came home and said, “Don’t worry about the kids, they’re at my parents, don’t worry about supper, it’ll be ready in half an hour, here’s the paper, the baseball game’s on TV, and why don’t I get you a drink?”
The Bible paints a realistic picture about life. It is not perfect, perfection is coming, but it isn’t yet here. We’re waiting for it to come. But we live in a dirty, messy world where people get sick, people die, people are wrongly accused, and people are tired, weak, and heartbroken. But by God’s grace they endure, they are strengthened, renewed, heartened. And in the midst of it all there’s joy.
God commands us to take joy in trials. How is that even possible? Two ways: first, we have to look at trials as a means to maturity. Look at verses three and four, “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
We want life to be all about me. We live in a world that is telling us it is all about me. We have a new word in the Oxford English dictionary, that sums this up perfectly, selfie. We have selfie sticks, so that we can take photos of ourselves without having to ask anyone else to hold our phones or cameras, so that we can prove that we are somewhere. It isn’t enough to have pictures of being somewhere. We have to be in the pictures. Six people were gored by bison in Yellowstone National Park this year because they were trying to get selfies with the buffalo! How silly is that?
But God is for God, that’s why continues, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Why does God do what he does for me? For his name’s sake. For the sake of his honour, for the sake of his character, for the sake of his nature, his love.
How does growth and maturity happen? Does it happen when things are good and easy? How do you build muscle mass? You lift heavy weights, you face resistance. How do you learn, you fail and you try again until you get it right. Not only is this true for the physical world, it is true spiritually. We grow, we get stronger, we mature when we face resistance, when we fail and try again.
puts it this way, God acts, for the praise of his glorious grace. God works in order to get praise.
We desire the opposite. We want maturity without trials and tests. We’d rather be content and complacent. A.W. Tozer compares this attitude to a field. A fallow field just lies around and does nothing. It fears no plough, no pain, and no struggle. But it experiences nothing of new life, new growth, and new potential. When the farmer comes, and lowers the plough and tears into the soil, the field experiences pain and discomfort. But it breaks up the ground, so that seeds can flourish and grow.
The plough represents the trials and tests. God breaks up our ground, so that we can grow. When you’re in the midst of a trial, it is hard to see the power and might of new life. But those who’ve gone through it know that what comes is totally worth it.
Now that sounds like God has a selfie problem. But it doesn’t really. Think about when you were little, and you accomplished something for the first time. Maybe you scored your first goal, maybe you can remember or you’ve seen when you took your first step, or rode your bike for the first time without training wheels. What did your parents do? They praised you, they shared in your joy. Praise is an expression of joy! When we praise God, we’re expressing joy, delight in the amazing grace of God. And that only happens when we realise that it isn’t about us, it is about God.
See, if we live our lives and it is all about us, we live with expectations. When I come home from work, if I expect dinner to be ready, the kids quietly reading or playing, and my gorgeous wife greeting me with a kiss. Okay, that’s pretty much everyday. But if I think it is all about me, I’ll have demands, and I’ll be like, “I better get what I want.” I won’t be free to love my wife, my kids, my family. I’m not free to forgive, to lay down my life, to put others first.
Read Verse 5-8
Second, trials remind us of our total need for God. When things go well, who gets the credit? WE do. When things go wrong? We blame God. I can’t believe God is letting this happen to me.
Matt Chandler says, “The more your life is about you, the more miserable of a human being you’re going to be.” If you think you need to be first in everything, the first thing that others think of, you’ll be miserable, they’ll be miserable.
But if things aren’t about you, then you’re free, free to serve others. Free to love your spouse, love your parents, love your siblings, love your friends. God is about God, and the world isn’t about me. That also means that all of God’s commands are for my joy and my benefit.
That’s the reality of our sinful hearts. So, as we go through trials, ask God for wisdom, to understand what He’s teaching us. Ask God, and he’ll respond. When I’m in a trial, I know that God is going to teach me, help me grow up, spiritually. Remember that if you get Christ but lose everything else, you have everything. But if you get everything else, but don’t have Jesus, you’ve lost everything.
Think about it. If you’re not married, and you saw a married couple who were always bitter and angry with one another, you probably wouldn’t be going around, “Man I can’t wait to be married.”
Ask for wisdom. Hold onto God, asking for help. There’s two requests, first, “God, give me wisdom.” Second, “Strengthen, increase, my faith, erase my doubts.” tells us the story about a father who brings his demon possessed son to Jesus. He asks Jesus, “If you can do anything, help us!” Jesus replies, “If I can? All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately, the child’s father says, “I believe, help my unbelief.” And Jesus steps in and heals his boy.
You see what happens, when we turn to God, when we ask for wisdom, when we face our doubts, and we also say, “Help my unbelief, my natural tendency to mistrust your ways, your means, your abilities,” Jesus steps in and acts. He gives the mustard seed of faith that enables him to work in our lives.
But if you saw a married couple who really truly loved each other, who couldn’t wait to spend time together, who held hands, kissed in front of the kids, and just loved each other, you’d be like, “Sign me up for that!”
That’s what God is doing. He wants us to see him, see his love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he’s saying, tie into this. Follow this, do this. You’ll love this! Trust me, jump into the deep end of the pool, you’re going to love it! This isn’t drudging obedience, but joyful obedience, knowing that God designed the world to work together perfectly in his way. In that is true joy.
The reality of life on earth is that it is a struggle. You will battle with doubt. Don’t feel shame our guilt, for having doubts, doubts happen. You’re struggling, you’re having a hard time in the midst of a trial, and you’re like, “I believe, help my unbelief!” And bam! God works in you. Yes, we struggle, we all struggle, but God honours that struggle.
But a double minded man is the one who says, “I won’t worry, because God won’t help me anyway.” He doesn’t even try praying to God, because he doesn’t believe he’ll do anything. All he does is give lip service to God. Examine your own heart and life. Am I coming here, but I don’t really believe? Am I coming here, pretending that I’ve got it all together, but I don’t? If we’re just faking it, we have to stop.
Okay, finally back to our passage: True wisdom is from God. God created the world, and he knows how it works best. God has told us how it works the best. He’s not like a parent who goes, here’s your new two wheeler, go have fun trying to learn it! No, he’s given us instructions, he’s with us, walking then running alongside, holding on to the seat, giving us the balance, until we learn to balance on our own, as yoked to him we learn obedience until it becomes our nature, our new nature in Christ.
Read verses 9-12
False wisdom says, “There’s no god, and no we can’t know what’s the best way to go, we figure it out as we go along, or the best minds in the world will figure it out for us. Everyone can figure out their own way. Or, if there is a God, he exists for me, for my benefit.
If the first struggle is against doubt, the second is against comparison. We compare ourselves to others. A few months ago, researchers concluded that regular use of Instagram leads to depression. Why? Well, if you’re having a hard time, you’re going through a trial, and all you were able to do was sit around all day watching TV and eating ice cream. No big deal, we all have days like that. But then, just before you go to sleep, you look at social media, Instagram or Facebook. There, everyone is awesome. Everyone looks great, everyone’s having a great day, and all the families are perfect. But you’re not. You’re in a trial. You think, “Really God, this is happening to me, but what about them?”
Such false wisdom is marked, shown out by bitterness, jealousy and selfish ambition. If you think, I can figure out the best way to live, how can you not be selfish? How could you not be bitter and angry? If you’re the centre of everything, you’ll constantly be battling against everyone else who thinks they’re the centre of everything. If you’re the first priority in your affections, you’re your own god.
I’ve thought it. You’ve thought it. But then, if you’re open to God, really open to him, the Holy Spirit hits you, he hits you with . You realise that you’ve become the complaining older brother. You’re comparing yourself to others. Stop it.
False wisdom rejects that God is for God. If God exists, he exists for you, if you’re a selfish person. If you’re a selfish person, you’ll be thinking it’s all about you, and you get to decide what is right and wrong. You’ll boast and be proud. You boast and lie. You have to boast, you have to lie because your identity rejects God, and though you’ll be miserable, you’ll try to convince everyone else around you that you’re not miserable, by lying.
So, how do you know if you’re living by false wisdom? First, it is right now, earth focussed. It is not considering the eternal life, it is not considering heaven. All your decisions, all your spending, all your living is for the moment, for right now, for this life only. Earthly thinking, earthly wisdom, focuses on avoiding difficulty, suffering, loss and pain. Avoiding all the things that really happen in the real world.
That passage teaches us that God’s plans don’t depend on you. That God can redeem anyone, even the family that looks perfectly put together, but really isn’t. God doesn’t need you to work out his will. He will bless you, he will use you, but he isn’t dependent upon you. Stop comparing your life to others. You have no idea what people are going through, all of us are very good at hiding some of the most horrible things.
Everyone goes through trials and difficult seasons. Sometimes we live in blue sky. Sometimes we live in clouds and thunderstorms, with pouring rain. God is leading us to maturity. God is showing our dependence upon him. God knows we need encouragement.
It is living for now, not for the everlasting life that is to come. It is why people go into such deep debt trying to get all the things they want to enjoy now. And how often has that delivered? How often have you said, “If I just had that one thing, I’d be happy. And how happy were you?
We think we know what makes us happy, but we don’t. No one has betrayed you like you have. No one has deceived you like you. I don’t need to know how difficult your family is, you don’t know how difficult mine is. But I can say that how you’ve dealt with your family has probably caused as much damage as they’ve done to you.
Read verses 13-15
Trials are necessary for maturity. Trials show us our dependence upon God, God is the only thing we really, truly need. And don’t forget that doubts will come, be prepared for the battle. So be careful, there’s temptation and sin. Don’t blame God. Trust that God has you, he’s holding you.
There’s a saying, “In all your failed relationships, the common denominator is you.” No one has betrayed me more than I have. No one has lied to me more than I have. This is earthly wisdom. It is focussed on the present, on the now.
But we are eternal beings, this present life is like a breath, a second compared to eternity. Do you think, 20 centuries from now you’re going to be looking back on today and thinking, “Wow, I really missed out.” No. The next life is so much more, so much more!
Read verses 16-17
Secondly, such wisdom is unspiritual. It is not connected to the Spirit, to his power. It doesn’t acknowledge God’s reign and rule over life. It lives for itself.
Be prepared, the flesh, the sinful nature will try to fool you. You’re going to compare yourself to others. You’ll be tempted to think that God isn’t good. Don’t let yourself be fooled. Every good and perfect gift is from God.
Rest on this truth. NO matter how hard the storm, the trial is; God’s gifts are greater. Think about all the things you are able to do, even in a trial. You can get up, you can move around, you can breathe, you can do a lot of things. All those are gifts from God. We will do things today, that most of the world won’t do. We’ll have two more meals, most of the world gets only one. That’s a blessing we have, from God.
Third, it is demonic. It believes lies from the sinful nature. Demons, Satan, lies. False wisdom is empowered by lies, lies about God’s nature, our value, and how we should live. It is based on the premise, “I’ll do it my way, my way is better than God’s way, my truth is truth.
That’s demonic. That’s evil. It’s like saying, “Yeah, God rules the whole universe, but I know what I’m doing in this situation, I’ve got it covered, God, step back.” That’s silly! That’s demonic.
Our friends, our spouses, our family, all come from God’s hand. What about money in your account? From God.
James then turns to true wisdom. The root of true wisdom is God. It means I focus my attention on the day when I’ll stand before God and give an account for everything I’ve done. That day is coming. It’s closer today than it was yesterday. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know how long I have to live. I hope it is a good long time yet! But I have to remind myself, what am I living for? Right now; or the future?
There’s no variation, no change in God. God isn’t fickle. God doesn’t look at you and say, “You didn’t pray to me yesterday, therefore, you’re not getting that bonus. You sinned on purpose yesterday; I’m going to make it hard for you to breathe. You said something mean, no lunch for you. God knew what you would do, even when he was on the cross. He knew all your failures, all your failed attempts, but he gives you grace. Do you think that God has a hard time looking at you? Do you think you just aren’t good enough? All the anger, all the disgust that God had for you, he put on his Son instead. It was bad, it was brutal. But now, when God looks at you, he sees you through his Son. He sees you cleansed, made right, beautiful, lovely, pure and holy. He loves you.
Don’t think of yourself as you were. Yes, you were terrible, but God put that on the Son, on the cross. All the bad, evil, terrible stuff has been dealt with. God won’t change his mind about you. He chose you once and forever.
On that day, the day I stand before God, I’ll say, “I’m standing on Christ. I claim Christ. I did things, by Christ, but I didn’t do everything I could have.”
So, knowing that, how does that change how I will live for today, for tomorrow? James says true wisdom is marked by humility. It is humbly acknowledging God’s superior wisdom, trusting his commandments are for my benefit, to protect me not to harm me. God designed the world, he knows it best, I’ll trust him. I’ll walk his path. I’ll find my joy and delight in God alone. But such an attitude demands humility and meekness.
Read verse 18
You think you fall short. You think God’s unhappy with you, you hate that you struggle with doubt. Doesn’t matter. God chose you. He’s making you into a first fruit. Before the tree can bear the most fruit, it must be pruned. If a tree isn’t pruned, it becomes weaker and less fruitful. Sometimes there are things that attack the tree, that a tree surgeon has to come and deal with.
So, how do we grow in true wisdom, and be able to spot false wisdom?
First, we need to be growing in our understanding of God’s Word. Come to the Sunday night Bible Study. Start your own. Study the word daily. Attend church. Listen to sermons. Grow in your understanding of who God is, truly. Not the God you think you know, or the God you’ve made up. The Bible is God’s Word.
Imagine if the tree could cry out, no! Not the saw, not that branch, I need that branch. But if the branch is diseased, it needs to be cut off. God is for you. Trials will come. Trials are happening. Consider it all joy. God is good, he’s working for you. He’s working in you. Trust him. Let’s pray.
Second. Be in community. says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Hang out with people who are serious about knowing God. Find people who will be honest with you. We have blind spots, spots that we’re blind to see. Others can see them, and help us deal with them.
Third, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
Keep this in mind. We don’t naturally want to submit to our church leaders. But look at the expectation of the leaders. We have to give account for the watching over of your souls. This is serious stuff!
When the elders and deacons meet, we pray, “Lord by your grace, we want to lead this church, we want to shepherd your people, we want to guide your people. Let us serve.” scares me. I have to give an account for you.
God gives us leaders to help us know what is true or false wisdom. Church leaders sometimes have to correct behaviour. If you are focussed on earthly stuff, you won’t receive such correction. If you are focussed on Christ, you will. A while ago, a senior in this congregation, called me out on something. I’ve given it a lot of thought. I think he showed me a blind spot. I receive his rebuke knowing that it will help me be a better person, a better pastor. How do you receive correction? Do you receive it? Or do you reject it? Do you desire to grow in your knowledge of God? Are you seeking out other Christians who are committed, more committed than you are?
Look, if you live among nominal people, who only give lip service to God, then that’s what you’ll start living up to. But if you put godly people around you, who challenge you to grow, then you’ll grow!
Listen again to the description of true wisdom: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. Amen.” Do you have these marks? Purity? Peace-loving? Considerate, that is considering another’s point of view, another’s opinion, and thinking to yourself, they could be right, I could be wrong. Submissive, trusting that God has placed people in your life to guide you and correct you when necessary. Submitting to God’s Word. Full of mercy and good fruit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Are you demonstrating them? Are you impartial? That’s a hard one. We all show partiality, but we have to fight against it, remember what we learned from James a few weeks ago. And sincerity. Sometimes we can be very sincere, and yet very wrong. Let us be sincere in our speaking, and in our listening.
Let us be quick to listen to one another. We all agree that God has brought us together to build us up into his kingdom, right? So, everything that has ever gone on in the church has happened according to God’s plan, so that we may grow. Everything that this church does, is for the growth of God’s people. Yes, we will and we have done the wrong thing. This is grace, when you’re teaching your child how to ride a two-wheeler and she loses her balance and falls, you pick her up and say, are you ok? You patch up the skinned knee, and you encourage her to keep trying. Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have fallen, we will fall, get up, let the Holy Spirit bandage you, and keep trying. Amen.